Battle for survival now the biggest challenge


FOR Brian Pezzutti, the tsunami catastrophe at Banda Aceh in Indonesia is not measured in scenes of destruction, but in its battered survivors.

The Richmond Hill-based anaesthetist, Army Reserve brigadier and former NSW MP, yesterday said he had not left the hospital he has been working at since arriving nearly a week ago.

He was expecting to leave the hospital last night to see first-hand the destruction wreaked by the giant wave. He won't have to go far.

The hospital Dr Pezzutti and the rest of his Australian team are based at lies 13km inland, but is still only 180 metres from the limit of the tsunami. In some places it went in even farther, he said.

Medical teams sent from Jakarta, Australia, Spain, and even Estonia, were working 14-hour days and had to make do without the help of locals, already busy searching for families and friends.

"It's the nurses who are most pressed. If we'd brought more of anything it would have been nurses," he said.

Medical teams were dealing with frightening wounds among the survivors, including fractures, compound fractures, bad infections, burst eardrums from the impact of the tsunami and pneumonia.

However, Dr Pezzutti said preventative work by Indonesian authorities had so far held off outbreaks of sanitary diseases such as cholera, despite there being about 40,000 uncollected bodies in the region.

The medical team was so far holding up well, despite the trauma of the situation.

The language barrier remained one of the biggest obstacles faced by the medical team. "But a smile goes a long way," he said.

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